‘Should have done more’: Mississauga mayor apologizes for inaction amid councilor harassment allegations

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie says she’s sorry for not taking action earlier amid allegations that a councilor repeatedly vandalized another councilor’s vehicle in a secure city parking lot.

Crombie apologized to former Ward 2 Coun. Karen Ras on Thursday, Feb. 3 for not pushing the city’s integrity commissioner to investigate the allegations once Peel Regional Police decided not to pursue charges.

“It’s difficult to interfere in another person’s complaint but, as mayor, maybe I erred on being too cautious and I should have pushed a little harder, and I blame myself,” she said.

“I could have done more and should have done more.”

Ras alleges that Coun. Ron Starr scratched her vehicle with keys in the city hall parking lot prior to her resignation in January, behavior, she said, constitutes harassment and played a part in her stepping away from council.

She said her vehicle was vandalized as many as eight times, with the perpetrator caught on surveillance video on April 13, 2021.

Starr has yet to address the allegations and has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Crombie said on Thursday that Starr has denied that he vandalized Ras’ vehicle.

According to a statement from her spokesperson, Crombie was aware of the alleged vandalism in spring of last year.

Peel police did not lay charges related to the alleged incident, and council’s code of conduct rules say that if a complaint involves a potential criminal act, the integrity commissioner can not pursue it.

Crombie’s Feb. 3 comments followed Mississauga council passing a motion calling on Robert Swayze, the city’s integrity commissioner, to investigate whether Starr “engaged in harassing behavior” toward Ras in violation of the councilor code of conduct and policy.

The motion also asked Starr to take a leave of absence while the possible investigation is underway.

Crombie said there’s a “glaring gap” in council’s code of conduct that she hopes can be addressed but declined to say whether she thought Starr should resign if the allegations are proven true.

“I think we need to wait for the results of the investigation before we ask anyone to resign their seat,” she said.

Council has limited powers to suspend or remove a councilor, which makes requests for a leave of absence or resignation largely voluntary.

A councilor who has been found to have violated Mississauga’s code of conduct could face docked pay for 90 days and be removed from some council duties.

While questions remain about why Ras’ allegations were not investigated more thoroughly, senior city staff told employees Wednesday, Feb. 2 that they fully cooperated with the police investigation and condemned the alleged vandalizing of Ras’ vehicle.

In an email to all staff obtained by “The Mississauga News,” City Manager Paul Mitcham noted that councilors are not city employees and are governed by their own code of conduct.

“This is an unfortunate incident and one that does not reflect well on the City of Mississauga,” he wrote. “It is my hope that council will deal with this matter through the proper channels so that something like this does not happen again.”

– With files from Grant LeFleche


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